SARASOTA, Fla. (Jan. 19, 2017) The origin and variety of cuisine worldwide has long fascinated chef James Arnsby, who’s launching an international cooking program with USF Sarasota-Manatee.
The London-born chef loves to explore cuisine and the impact tradition, geography, even religion, play in shaping popular modern dishes. Through a new program entitled the Global Culinary Connection, Chef Arnsby’s love of international cuisine is on display every other Wednesday night at USFSM’s Culinary Innovation Lab in Lakewood Ranch.
His classes guide diners on a global cooking tour. The next stop: France, Jan. 25, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 and available at usfsm.edu/culinary-innovation-lab/global-culinary-connection/.
The menu includes French onion soup with Gruyere cheese and toasted crostini, a Parisian favorite; ratatouille, a southern French classic; seared duck with cherry compote (the pairing of meat and fruit traces to Roman times); and steak au poivre (literally, steak with pepper). Chef Arnsby’s version includes a peppercorn demi-glace with butter and cream. The origins of this popular early 20th Century dish are in dispute as several Parisian chefs lay claim to it.
The seeds of Chef Arnsby’s passion were planted during childhood by his British-born mother, “an amazing chef” in her own right, at his parents’ former hotel on Siesta Key and then at the French Culinary Institute in New York City where he received formal training. Later, as Arnsby embarked on trips abroad and a 20+ year restaurant career, including 13 years at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, his curiosity for international cuisines deepened.
“I love doing the research into regional differences, going deep into say Greece, but not just about the cuisine of Athens but also of the smaller villages outside the city,” he said.
With Southwest Florida becoming increasingly diverse, Arnsby thought the timing was right to bring his passion for ethnic cuisine into the open.
He approached Chef Joe Askren of USFSM’s Culinary Innovation Lab who quickly seized on the idea of exploring the origins and influences of popular world cookery. Dr. Pat Moreo, dean of the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, supported the notion as well.
However, instead of a course targeting hospitality management students, a decision was made to open the class to anyone from students to veteran restaurant professionals to home cooks.
“Our mission includes not only the education of our traditional students but engagement with the community as well,” Dr. Moreo said. “It is exciting for us to be able to bring together a terrific chef like James and community members who are interested or passionate about cuisine and its role in our lives.”
Arnsby’s course targets the staples of regional cookery as well as some not-so-well-known dishes. Along the way, he explores the origins of different cuisines and their cultural impact. His presentations are held at the CIL’s demonstration kitchen, 8130 Main St., in Lakewood Ranch.
His classes are lively and engaging. Attendees pose questions, watch and take notes as Arnsby prepares the food he’s lecturing about.
Last week, diners were whisked to Italy to learn about marinara sauce, the basis of so many southern Italian classics, as well as a salad made with tomatoes, potatoes and haricots verts. He explored a hearty seaside favorite of spaghetti, shrimp, lemon, mint and pecorino while also preparing a flavorful dish of roasted eggplant, marinara and mozzarella.
Additional stops during the series include China, Germany, Colombia, Mexico, Spain and Greece. Classes in African and Caribbean cuisines are planned as well.
“My main thing, the biggest thing in my class, is I want to draw people in who are intrigued by the differences in cuisine around the world, who like to explore the different flavors and cultures of the world,” he said. “There’s so much variation to experience.”
For more about USFSM’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, visit usfsm.edu/chtl/.